Primoceler, a microfabrication company specializing in laser micro welding and scribing of transparent materials, has developed the first sapphire-to-sapphire welding process.
“At Primoceler, we constantly expand technological boundaries,” said Ville Hevonkorpi, Primoceler’s managing director. “We were the first to weld glass to glass, glass to silicon and now sapphire to sapphire. Sapphire-to-sapphire welding is even more difficult than glass-to-glass welding, and no one has been able to do it before.”
Sapphire’s cost-effectiveness, durability, high melting point, chemical inertness, transparency and capacity for optical transmission in visible, ultra-violet and near-infrared light make it a highly desirable material in several industries. For example, because of the material’s resistance to heat and chemical erosion, sapphire substrates are currently used in the manufacturing of many LEDs for mobile handsets, televisions, automobile headlights and general lighting. “Now that we have developed this totally new technology, we’re anticipating that it will open new possibilities for industries, just as our glass-glass welding technology did,” said Hevonkorpi.
Hevonkorpi was referring to one of Primoceler’s previous innovations, a laser micro welding methodology that produced an extremely small heat-affected zone (HAZ), expanding the potential for packaging fragile components, including under or inside glass, which had been a challenge for manufacturers. “We recently learned the benefits of glass to welding glass in medical devices,” he continued. “As glass is transparent to infrared light and radio frequency waves, it makes new kind of implants possible. Also glass is highly bio-compatible and so better for patients.”
Sapphire has also yielded a great deal of benefits for medical devices. As an optical material, its durability is second only to diamond, which, in addition to the fact that it is chemically inert and non-thrombogenic (will not cause blood clots), makes it an excellent material for surgical tools, implants, braces as well as endoscopes and laser windows.
“Sapphire is widely used in sensors, different types of lenses and other devices, so there is a range of potential for this new technology,” said Hevonkorpi. “Companies that use sapphire for their products will come to us with ideas of how sapphire-to-sapphire welding technology can benefit them. We always welcome customers to challenge us and test their products.”
The machine that Primoceler developed for the new process is somewhat similar to the laser-based welding machine previously created to produce a small HAZ. The new machine contains a fiber laser unit specially optimized for the welding process by Corelase and also features software and components developed in-house.